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Varla Jean Merman’s Ready to Blow

Review by Steve Desroches

No one makes having a nervous breakdown as much fun as Varla Jean Merman. The past several years and then some have been difficult, to say the least. We all coped in our own way, be it binge-watching Netflix, swigging down anxiety with a bottle of Chardonnay, or just staring out the window looking for the internal feeling of existential dread to take a physical form. Pandemics, insurrections, wildfires, droughts and disappearing lakes, Ukraine, and that orange bloated turd that just won’t go down the bowl. It just seems like it’s continually one thing after another, and our collective nerves are frayed and sparking. In her brand new show Varla Jean Merman’s Ready to Blow the ginger drag superstar shows that at 25 years of performing in Provincetown she is at the top of her game and still very much one of, if not the standard bearer of the town’s storied and dynamic drag scene. Varla Jean Merman’s Ready to Blow is as hilarious as it is inventive, timely, at times surprisingly poignant as well as a lot of fun. And at moments it’s delightfully silly and dumb in the best possible ways. Within the narrative arc, there is a very real and important message ensconced in the sophisticated ridiculousness and classic irreverence that are hallmarks of any Varla Jean Merman show.

The drag cabaret show in the newly spruced up Paramount room at the Crown and Anchor is seamless in its presentation. Written by Ricky Graham, Jacques Lemarre, and Merman herself and directed by Michael Shiralli, the show presents Varla and her team at their best. And it’s evidence that indeed upon arrival in 1998, Merman challenged her “colleagues” to bring not only their A-game every summer, but a new one each season. And that tradition has stuck as she and her musical director and accompanist Gerald Goode present a rollicking musical that never misses a beat from beginning to end as her assistant Brian Johnson keeps the circus tent anchored to the ground.

Varla Jean Merman’s Ready to Blow is one of her most fully realized and precise shows in recent years, which is saying something, as Merman’s shows are perennial hits and always masterfully done. On its surface, it’s just a good time, but listening to the narrative it’s revealed the show is a complicated braid of social commentary and cultural satire that can go from an earnest rallying cry in defense of our democracy and civil rights to a fart joke, and a really funny one at that. The audience on this night early into Carnival Week laughed to varying degrees from the moment Merman bounded on to stage until she took her final bow with her co-star, a pandemic rescue dog named Jasper. Despite who gets crowned on any given season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, it’s clear that Merman is America’s real drag superstar.

Varla Jean Merman’s Ready to Blow is at the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St., Provincetown, Tuesdays – Saturdays, 9 p.m. through September 10. Tickets ($40/$50) are available at the box office and online at For more information call 508.487.1430.

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Graphic Artist

Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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